- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Mayor Carl Stokes
Mayor Carl Stokes
1927 - 1996

Elected the 51st Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1967, Carl Burton Stokes became the first African American Mayor of a major U.S. city.

Born in Cleveland, Carl Stokes was raised by a hardworking mother (his father died when Carl was 2) who constantly stressed the value of education. After his Army discharge, he attended college received his BS and JD degrees.

In 1962 Stokes resigned as Cleveland’s assistant prosecutor and with his brother founded the law firm of Stokes and Stokes. Stokes was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1962 and was reelected. In the House he served on various committees. While urging civil rights and welfare bills, he sponsored a measure empowering the governor to send in national guard troops to defuse a potential riot.

Stokes became the first black lawyer to serve as general counsel to a major American labor union, the United Auto Workers. He jumped back into the political arena, being elected as a judge in Cleveland’s Municipal Court.

In 1994, Stokes served in the Clinton Administration as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Seychelles. He died in Cleveland on April 3, 1996.

Mayor Stokes has two sons, Cordell and Carl, Jr., two daughters, Cordi and Cynthia, and stepson, Sasha.